Gary Ballance surprised by England recall for Pakistan Test

Gary Ballance
Gary Ballance last played for England against Australia at Lord's in 2015
England v Pakistan, first Investec Test
Venue: Lord's. Dates: Thursday, 14 July - Monday, 18 July
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary and in-play highlights on the BBC Sport website.

Gary Ballance said he was surprised to be recalled to the England side for the first Test against Pakistan.

The Yorkshire batsman has not played international cricket since the 2015 Ashes series but returns in place of Nick Compton despite averaging 33.64 in the County Championship this season.

"It's all come as a bit of a surprise," said the 26-year-old.

"It's a great feeling to be back in the squad, especially when you've been out of the side for a while."

The left-hander, who is set to bat at number five when the first of four Tests gets under way at Lord's next Thursday, added: "I was just doing a bit of grocery shopping when I got the call from national selector James Whitaker - just a standard Thursday morning!"

Ballance made his Test debut in 2014 and made four centuries in his first nine matches.

But a sequence that saw him pass 29 only once in five matches led to him being dropped after the Lord's Test against Australia last summer.

It was thought that Ballance, whose technique involves a big movement back towards his stumps as the bowler releases the ball, became susceptible to deliveries of a full length - he was bowled in four of his last seven Test innings having not been dismissed in that manner in any of his first nine matches.

"I've had some time away, the chance to work on my game," said Ballance, who will win his 16th Test cap. "I feel like I've got back to where I want to be."

Ballance had managed only 336 runs in 13 innings before a century this week for Yorkshire against a Middlesex side that included pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones, who has received his first Test call-up.

"I've felt good the last few weeks," said Ballance. "I've been playing well, I just haven't got that big score that gets you noticed.

"I was happy with the way I played there, especially getting a century and spending a long time in the middle.

"Roland-Jones has been a quality bowler for the last few years for Middlesex, all of us who play in county cricket know how good a bowler he is. He thoroughly deserves his call-up."

Analysis

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew:

"It seemed that Scott Borthwick was due to come in at three but he's had scores of two, four and five in the first-class innings he's had since the England's last Test.

"Ballance hasn't pulled up any trees this summer, he only has one hundred, but it is recent and they have been looking to get him back in the side.

"They are hoping that he has worked out the things that went wrong and he comes back a better player, but they are not confident enough for him to bat at number three. Moving Joe Root up the order has a little element of risk and compromise.

"There were plenty of attacking options - Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler included - but was that right for Test cricket? Possibly not. If Ballance does come back and score runs, he fits in well, but there will be some people looking at the batting order with a lump in their throat because Pakistan's bowling is decent.

"I think England's bowling will be OK, but there are one or two questions over the batting."

'Ballance is an Austin Allegro'

We gave BBC Sport readers the chance to comment on Ballance's recall. Here's a selection of what they had to say:

Barry Man: "So an average of 33.64 is enough to get into the Test team top 6. What does that say to other batsmen?"

John Petrie: "Ballance has had time to correct the faults he had so he now has the chance to prove it. I agree with the second chance. But he is not a number 3; he does not bat no 3 for Yorkshire so unless he is 4 or 5 it does not make sense."

Tommyk: "Ballance? Many batsman having a better season than him, and with Amir swinging the ball can see his old flaws resurfacing. Questionable selection at best to be brutally honest."

50fifty: "Ballance is just like a relaunch of the Austin Allegro - worthy but dull. Selectors seem somehow frightened of talent!"

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